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We Now Have a Wildfire

I could have just as easily titled this, “What a difference a year makes.” Yesterday was hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 108 officially. This sets a new record for the hottest August 10th on record as well as the hottest day ever recorded here in August. What is more, the humidity was at 9%, which is exceptionally low. It is somehow not surprising that the first nearby fire began yesterday. There are stunning differences from last year, though.

Last year, there were major fires burning in Montana in June. Our local fire last year rapidly grew from 250 acres to well over 4,000 acres in a matter of days. It ended up being over 40,000 acres. The hot and dry conditions contributed quite a bit to the growth, but that wasn’t the biggest factor, believe it or not. 

The fire last year was combatted for nearly three weeks by a skeleton crew of 23 firefighters and no heavy equipment, helicopters, or tankers. In part, that was because personnel was being used elsewhere. More importantly, though, the forest service was still being held back by Obama-era regulations and funding. They literally couldn’t hire more firefighters to battle the blaze. A crew of 23 without equipment support simply isn’t enough to battle a fire with the conditions we had.

This year, the Secretary of the Interior, who is from Montana, and President Trump instituted some major changes in regard to wildfire. They also freed up disaster relief funds. As a result, the fire we now have and that I mentioned is being held to about 21 acres at this time. It is being manned by 75 firefighters, 3 helicopters, 2 bulldozers, and 2 water tanker aircraft are available if they are needed. Other resources are also available and more fire teams are just a phone call away.

     This image shows some of the terrain firefighters are dealing with.

That doesn’t mean that this fire couldn’t grow rapidly. The terrain is rocky and difficult, even though it isn’t far from the main highway or the river. In fact, the location of the fire, called the Weeksville Fire, is only about a half-mile from one of our fishing spots. I’ve shared images of that fishing spot. We won’t be fishing there anytime soon, though.

          Here is an image I’ve shared before. I’ve included an arrow to show where the fire is located.

This fire is also a rarity in that it was man-caused rather than lightning-caused. It wasn’t from arson or negligence, though. The fire began because of a trailer-house fire. Unfortunately, the trailer and one outbuilding were destroyed.

There is smoke in the air today, but it isn’t bad and nowhere near what it was last year at this time. It is amazing what wise forest management and regulations, coupled with disaster funding and resources, can do to cut the fire hazard down. Had the same measures been in place last year, it is likely that many thousands of acres of forest would have been saved. It would have saved a huge amount of money, too. The total cost in terms of 1.3 million acres of timber, the wildlife, the habitat, the water table, and lost income for businesses and individuals in the state probably won’t be known for decades, if it ever is.

   Note: Except for the picture I’ve previously shared, all images here are from the US Forest Service.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • Thankfully, the fire didn’t last long. It took just a few days to contain it. This year was actually a rarity. We had no major fires within 20 miles of us. I’m not complaining. A lot of that is also because the President channeled more money into wildfire suppression this year, so the fires were brought under control before they could get out of hand.

    • It was funding that was probably our biggest issue last year. In large part, that was because when the huge fires were raging in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, Houston got slammed by a hurricane. Because that is a major population center, most eyes turned to Houston and the Pacific Northwest was sort of neglected. The US Forest Service was actually way in debt before emergency funding came through. The sad part is that the emergency funding only took about 2 1/2 months, which is exceptionally fast when it comes to Congress.

      • It was a shame that due to the natural disasters at the time of your area’s mishap, it took a long time to get your area some help just like New Orleans took a long time to get help after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

        • Katrina was similar but was also different in some ways. The help and the funding were available before the hurricane even made landfall, but the Mayor of New Orleans and the governor of the state were slow in asking for help or declaring a state of emergency. The law prohibits the President from sending help in to an area that has a disaster until a state of emergency has been declared on the local level. There were aircraft carriers and troops waiting to help, but it took days before the disaster was declared so the military could actually move in and help.

        • Yes, they did blame Bush. Bush actually told the governor that he needed to declare a state of emergency so troops could be sent in to help and asked him to make that declaration. It took the governor three days to declare an emergency. That wasn’t on Bush, it was on the governor (and the mayor of New Orleans).

          Have you noticed that even with the crisis of illegal immigrants flooding the southern border of California that president Trump hasn’t sent in the military? The law forbids it because California’s governor hasn’t declared it an emergency. The National Guard was called into action, but not regular military.

          However, the governor of California did declare a state of emergency with the huge wildfire. That allowed Trump to authorize the military to help battle the fire. The media likes to misreport, ignoring the fact that there are laws in place and that they can actually be followed. lol

          • Thank you for sharing this information. What made me laugh is that the media mentioned that since the then Governor of Louisiana who was Kathleen Blanco (D) and former Mayor Ray Nagin (D) were Democrats, Bush placed politics since the Governor of Mississippi who was at that time Haley Barbour (R) it was a good old boys club act.

        • That was bogus reporting. Politics didn’t enter into it, at least not from the President. As soon as Bush knew that Katrina was going to hit New Orleans, a carrier group was ordered to the area. Bush assumed that a state of emergency would be declared before the Hurricane even hit. He also ordered the military in from the west, to help with on-the-ground operations. They were placed on standby, pending the declaration by the governor.

          Most of this was common knowledge throughout most of the US, especially in every state with a military base. By the time the declaration finally did happen, other state governors had already declared emergencies and were getting federal aid.

          The media knew all of this and in fact, Fox has around the clock coverage. If Bush *hadn’t* acted immediately, it is nearly certain he’d have been removed from office, quickly. It also wouldn’t have been in his best interest to play political games since there were a lot of people in Louisiana who’d voted for him.

          The media likes spinning their half-truths and innuendos and natural disasters are sensational, so they sell the news. They tried to do the same thing last year when the hurricane hit Houston. They lost credibility when the president and first lady actually showed up and helped, physically. The media responded by spinning it even harder, focusing on things that had nothing to do with the disaster in a feeble attempt to make the president look bad and, by extension, to make themselves look good. It didn’t work. Public opinion of the media dropped even more during their reporting of that disaster.

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